In our food-obsessed age with everything “salted,” it’s easy to forget that not everyone should be dousing their plate with high-end sprinkles of sodium. And by “everyone” I mean a lot of us.
Low-salt cooking isn’t de rigueur, but it is essential for those combatting heart disease and high blood pressure—as well as for those of us who are simply wary of the two. Cue one of my favorite wintry fallback recipes: Slow-Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Orange Couscous from the American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook.
I know, I know. I’m recommending low-salt and slow cooking. It’s like I’m intentionally un-fun. But let’s talk about this recipe…
Although the ingredient list looks a bit odd without the requisite kosher salt always in cookbooks these days, it has a trick up its sleeve: To show you what happens when salt isn’t there to do all of the work. And what happens, you ask? You discover other ingredients and flavor combinations that add pop to your cooking!
In this recipe, we have a symphony of dried fruits to provide sweetness, white balsamic vinegar to cut in some sharp tanginess, and warming spices including cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne to round things out. They play off the flatter base notes of chicken and cannellini beans, creating complexity without all the additives.
I also appreciate that this is an incredibly forgiving recipe. No plums? Leave them out or sub in another dried stone fruit. Don’t like white wine, which is called for? Sub in low-sodium chicken stock. Hate celery like yours truly? Skip it.
However you choose to make it, the slow cooker will work its magic on the ingredients, slowly coaxing flavor out of each morsel over the next six hours.
And, once served, if out of habit your fingers happen to graze over that precious bowl of fleur de sel on the table, well, let ‘em keep walking. You won’t need it.
Get the Recipe: Slow-Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Orange Couscous
Slow-Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Orange Couscous
Serves 6 | 1 cup chicken mixture and ½ cup couscous per serving
Thanks to a wonderful blend of spices and dried fruit, ordinary chicken gets a Moroccan makeover in this meal-in-one dish. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients—this dish is simple to put together.
2 medium carrots, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, Maui, or Oso Sweet, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced lengthwise, and separated into halfrings
1 large rib of celery, chopped
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, all visible fat discarded, cut into 1½- to 2-inch cubes
¹⁄³ cup dried plums, coarsely chopped
¹⁄³ cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
¹⁄³ cup golden raisins
¹⁄³ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine (regular or nonalcoholic)
3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 15.5-ounce can no-salt-added cannellini beans, white kidney beans, or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup water
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 cup uncooked wholewheat couscous
Lightly spray a 3½- or 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Put the carrots, onion, and celery in the slow cooker. Place the chicken cubes over the vegetables. Top with the dried plums, apricots, and raisins. Don’t stir.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar and flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in the wine. Whisk in the remaining chicken ingredients except the beans. Pour over the chicken mixture. Don’t stir. Cook, covered, on low for 5½ to 6½ hours or on high for 2½ to 3 hours, or until the chicken and vegetables are tender. Stir in the beans. Cook, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes (on either low or high), or until the beans are heated through.
Recipe from The American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook ©American Heart Association, 2013. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Harmony Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Illustration: Marie Guillard